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Vacation Activity Ideas

Enjoy this selection of vacation activity ideas submitted by our visitors.

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Vacation Activity Ideas

Grand Prize Winner - Jeanne D. of Michigan
My kids & I used to travel long distances to camp or visit family. To keep the "fidgets" under control, I started a game where I would start a story. The next person had to repeat the story to that point, then add to it, then on to the next. My kids used to ASK to play this game! It can get really nonsensical & funny! Then, if the weather was bad at our arrival, we would write & illustrate our story. Imaginations were never dull!

Additional suggestions for this activity are:
- Do this activity while waiting at the airport, while relaxing on the beach, on a rainy day, at the park or wherever your family is spending some time waiting or resting during your vacation.

Congratulations to all our Winners! (Winning entries received the most votes by our judges. The top winning entry received the most votes and was also one of the most flexible activities for a wide variety of vacations and so it received the top prize. This activity is fun regardless of where you go on vacation or how much money you have or have not, and it provides the opportunity to get each member of the family involved and participating in the activity without a large amount of prep time or work for any one member of the family. The second place winner's idea was very similar and was extremely close in votes.)

Second Place Winner - Karen P. of California
This is a silly idea that I used to do as a kid. Now I've passed it along to my family. When we find ourselves in the car driving a long distance, we people watch those around us. When we glance someone interesting, we make up elaborate, sometimes funny stories about where the person is going or why they are at the place they are at. Each person adds a little bit of rich detail to the story until its grown into a wild story!

Third Place Winner - Sarah B. of Conneticut
Create a family scrapbook of your vacation...let each child have a disposable camera to take pictures of their own favorite memories, and each night before bed spend a few moments as a family jotting down things that happened that day, journal style. Include funny events, comments, and mishaps...even "bad" memories make for funny reading in years to come! Once home, gather pictures and thoughts into a vacation scrapbook...putting it all together is a perfect rainy day activity!

Next 7 Top Entries - Consolation Prizes Awarded

Michelle L. of Nebraska
While driving to our destination we play a game of Road Trip Bingo, with cards and pieces to cover up the things you see that are on your card, e.g cows, horses, red cars, semi trucks,boats and anything else you can think of. I used velcro to secure the pieces to the board. Our family has done this for years.

Kelly T. of Missouri

We like to play a game called car bingo. Everyone make a grid with 5 squares across and five down. We then write down things like hot dog, names of specific restaurants such as McDonald's, and names of gas stations. When we pass an advertisment for one of these things and you have it in a square you get to mark it off. Whoever makes bingo first is the winner.

Judy S. of Kentucky

Rock and Rolling Along. We have started a tradition of rock collecting. When traveling we each gather one small unusual shaped rock from each stop we make.We put them in small envelopes labeled with the location of the town, state were they were collected. When we return home they are washed and painted, (ex: kentucky would paint a cardnal or goldenrod on it) then place them in our backyard Memory garden. This is a great rainy day activity as you paint discuss what your favorite part of the trip was to you, the funniest thing that happened or most exciting.

Donna P. of Florida

My idea is a sneaky way to get some exercise in while making it fun. Just make a simple treasure hunt sheet up and have everyone hike around and find the items on the list. You can always stash your own "treasure" just make sure that it's all found before you go.

Cindy S. of New York

Okay, I know it sounds gross, but kids LOVE gross stuff. . .we play a game I invented, "Your frog is dead." You have to turn to the person next to you and say that sentence as seriously as possible and the person you tell asks, "How did it happen?" You then tell how the frog died. "I took him to a picnic and he was on the table. Someone thought he was a pickle!" The ideas are many and the kids just giggle and giggle! It keeps them occupied for HOURS!

Ann B. of New Jersey

We like to vacation on the Outer Banks....the drive is about 12 hours. To pass the time, our family plays a game with the road signs and the names of the towns. We have to come up with a variation of the name of the town that sounds like a food. Examples: New Providence becomes New Provolone....Scotch Plains becomes ButterScotch Plains, Berkley Heights becomes Broccoli Heights, etc. The kids love this game!

Kat B. of Florida

On the way to our last vacation we left early so kids and i could play a game. Instead of taking the highway we took side roads and for every 'dollar type' store the kids seen I had to stop and buy something for them. Since it was dollar stores i really spent way less then i would have at the souvenier type places along the interstate. And I also got snacks and drinks for waaaaay less this way. It also kept the kids occupied 'looking' out the windows intead of at each other...LOL

More Great Vacation Ideas:

Carole R. of Montana

Going to SD. Will count the certain types of car's that go by. Older models like the 50's & 60's.

Jane S. of MO

In the car traveling my girls and I always played the Alaphabet game; looking for sign starting with A through Z - the one who got them all first won - we usually had to skip X - I usually helped my youngest as she was 6 years younger but eventually she got good.

Kimberly D. of Tennessee

I always like to have plenty of "Fun & Exciting Family Time"!!!! When going to theme parks (which we all know are costly! ex: Disney World), I buy a season pass which is of a lesser charge and use it and then schedule my vacation a week or two before the date it is to expire so we can have double the fun for half the cost! You can do this at most any place. Also some places if you come in after 3 PM (sometimes the tickets are discounted)or so you can return the next day for free. If we are at our hotel on any other day and it rains we bring along board games and cards. Alot of times if it is only raining then we get out in it and play. My 2 year old just loves to jump in the puddles! LOL ;-) On the way to the beach and back home we take turns singing songs we like (my 2 year old likes "I'm in the Lord's Army" & "If you are happy and you know it"),and my husband and I ask the kids to count how many red (etc...) they can find in 5 min. We have 2 children. One is almost 3 and the other is nearly 16, so you can only begin to imagine the "Fun" we haveand how imaginative we have to get with such a variance in age.

Catherine Ann R. of Michigan

Have a family poetry contest, with other families at your campsite. Each family judges the poems from another family. Winner of each family has no chores for a whole day!

Jim C. of Texas

have everyone make a list of places they want to see ,, draw cards --- high card picks ,, drops out ,, do it again ,, everyone gets a pick

Kimberly K. of Kentucky

My family vacation activity idea is to create a box or container of some sort for each person. While everyone is sitting enjoying each other and the beach or whatever scenerio, each person opens there box or container.Inside are goodies they love, prints that relate to their life, notes you always wanted to say to them, anything that has a very special meaning they will never forget.

Leann G. of New York

Since money is tight this year, my son and i are having a stay at home vacation. We made a plan to visit local attractions and have dinner for two at different cultural resturants and then scrapbook our experiences.

Viveca G. of Louisiana

AT HOME: Throughout the year, collect different types of kits like sewing or models, and buy drawing tablets and pens/pencils/ charcoals to draw with. At the onset of summer vacation, have each child pick an activity (Child Craft Encyclopedia is an excellent source to begin a child drawing). Teach them how to do crafts of all nature (just because it's sewing doesn't mean it's just for girls). For Travel: Have each child create a game of their own (using magnets and magnetized boards so pieces don't get lost)to play while in the car. Take turns playing each of the children's "made up" game. This usually keeps a child busy until "we're there yet!"

Shannon L. of Illisnois

My mom used to teach my sisters and I how to cross-stitch when we were looking for something to do. We would be hooked for days!

Lynn G. of British Columbia

We like to go camping because this way all the time is spent together makeing the most of our time together. With my husband gone for work all the time we find this very important. Camping gives us the ability to do everything together as a family aswell as having fun. We also find that we talk alot more about things in our childrens lives and having teens this is important, that they can open up and talk to us about anything. We have found that this goes in to our daily life aswell.

Marge F. of Colorado

A trip to Calif to spend time with my grandson making and solving our own jigsaw puzzles. Puzzles are made by decoupaging a picture onto stiff carboard, cutting them in various shapes and letting him put the pieces together with just a little of Grandma's help.

Helen W. of Illinois

The first thing we do is we make sure everyone picks up after themselves. It is a Family Vacation. It is also for the parents too. If one has to pick up we all have to. This way the family can have all the fun they like. We then spend time at the amusement parks and zoos. We also go site seeing like visit the caves and beaches.

Brenda C. of Ma

Go on a day trip specificly to find rocks from different areas and find out how different they can be it would be educational and fun.

Donna P. of Florida

My idea is a geocache hunt, check out www.geocache.com for more information. Make sure you bring your own goodies to leave when you find a cache, and sign the sheet saying that you were there. Nice way to get to know an area where you might not wander and fun to do and find as well.

Marci P. of Florida

Living in Florida is wonderful.... however, we often have afternoon thunder storms that take away half the day). On of the things the kids and I do during that time is to sit down and tell stories about my life (or my husband's), our grandparents or parents. They have heard about my grandfather being a WWI fighter pilot and getting shot down (and surviving), how he met my grandmother, how my grandmother's father nearly disowned her when he saw them riding in a car togheter (this was 1920, my grandfather was the first person to own a car back then in Carbondale, PA) and on and on. The stories give them a look into the past, into our family history and how things are so different. It also gives them a way to realize how blessed they are. Stories about the depression, about my own childhood being poor, it makes them realized how blessed they are! THey don't realize it, but they are also learning history, learning how to listen and the basics of how to tell a good story. Shhhh.. don't tell them it's learning! lol

Sarah B. of Conneticut

An inflatable beach ball is the perfect toy in a hotel room...it folds flat, takes up no room, is lightweight enough to cause no damage, and is a novelty...when else can you play ball inside? Sit a child on each bed, and play keep it out of the "moat"...the floor between the beds.

Kelly T. of Missouri

Kids love to hunt for things. We hide pennies, candy and small prizes in several yards in our neighborhood. Each child gets a sheet with clues to where things are hidden. The kids are given 1 hour to find everything, anything that is not found is left for the adults to find, but they have to do it at night with flashlights. I'm not sure who has more fun the kids or the adults.

We divide the car up into two sides drivers and passengers. We pick a certain phrase such as " We are on our way to Florida to have fun". Each team can only use the street signs on their side of the car to complete the phrase. You pick letters from the street signs you see to complete the phrase but you are limited to one letter per sign. The team that completes their phrase first win. Variation This can be done with license plates too.

Christy D. of Georgia

When my kids were younger and we took family vacations, they used to keep a journal during the trip. Even children who are too young to write can still draw a picture of something that caught their eye. To encourage them to look around and participate in this activity, every night at dinner we would all share our journal entries and talk about what we had seen and done that day.

Darija V. of Michigan

Bring a camera with you at all times. Ask a person around you to take a picture of the family. This way no one gets left out. Then ask the person taking your picture if they would like you to take their picture.

Mark P. of North Carolina

We love to play i-spy with our kids. we also play "a memory game" where you try to match 2 of the same pictures. we always say our breakfast, lunch, and dinner prayers together, as well as all saying our "good night" prayers before we go to sleep.

Lynn C. of Texas

My husband has started a new job and will not have vacation time coming until Fall, 2005. His schedule allows him 4 days off in a row every other week. This summer we will be taking some close to home vacations. One vacation I am in the process of planning is a backyard vacation. I am planning to spruce up all our old lawn furniture, the kids outside lawn toys (balls, bats, etc. We'll pitch a tent in the backyard to access our BBQ grill for cooking. During the heat of the day we will go to the public library, city pool, or other local free or low cost activities. At night we will play board games, use star charts to find different constellations. We will toast smores and make homemade icecream and just spend lots of together time doing things that we don't usually have the time to do. The phone, TV, compute, gameboys will all be off limits during this time.

We love to take car trips together as a family. When we spend time in the car on vacation we always check out books on tape from our local library. My sons are 15 and 11 so we look for books that are juvenile literature. My husband and I enjoy listening to these as much as our sons do. With tapes we don't have to worry about loosing a signal or driving out of range of the station. We can also control the content of what our children listen to. Usually we stop after every chapter or 2 to talk about what we've heard and prepare ourselves for the next section of the book. If possible I try to find books that contain something about some of the places we may visit on the trip or about the time frame our destination focuses on. These trips become really pleasurable and the boys will often ask to get back in the car so they can hear the next part of the story.

Amy H. of Texas

Make up a story together, write it down, and then have it "published" so you will always have a keepsake of that time.

Jane S. of Missouri

When we were traveling and girls were young, we played the alaphabet game. You start with "A" and go through alaphabet. Each person has to look at signs, etc. for words starting with letters. First person to get through alaphabet wins. It helped them pass the time.

Judy S. of Kentucky

When we go on vacation we play a game called Road signs. The first one to see the sign and identify it , food, lodging, hospital, land marks, etc. are one point. Stop, yeild, school crossing, falling rock etc. 2 points. The one with the most points get a special treat at the next stop. Treats could be a pick were we have our next snack, what radio station we listen to next, their pick of favorate seat in the car. This is not only entertaining but teaches kids to watch road signs and makes them more aware of the scenery on the trip.

Nancy P. of Florida

We go camping. It's a great way to get away from it all & enjoy nature together. We work together to make meals, build fires & ride our ATV's. Sometimes we read to each other & tell stories. It's a good way to get away from technology & really spend quality time together. We go as often as our schedules allow.

Tonya M. of Georgia

Our library has a great selection of books on tape or cd, from the classics to best sellers, so we can check out a couple of those for a six hour trip & it seem like only a few hours. And you can't beat FREE entertainment!

No matter where we go we always bring a bag with all our favorite card games for those days that we can't or don't want to go out.

Eleanor N. of North Carolina

Before leaving on vacation have each family member research and write a page about the state you are going to visit. Take turns reading the pages while driving or flying. The state will become more interesting the more you know about it.

Christy D. of Georgia

My daughter is a teenager now so it's tough to keep her focused on "family time" activities on vacation. We discovered her interest in scrapbooking so a large block of time is alloted to searching for souveniers for her book, places to take great family pictures, and magazines or newspapers from local areas. It makes vacations fun for her and bearable for us and the searches usually lead to more fun activities!

Jack L. of Arizona

Get books on tape to pass the time while driving cross-country.

Kat B. of Florida

Take a bag , brown paper bag is good, and add small toys out of your kids room in it. When they get bored while traveling give them a bag and let them guess what they are feeling in the bag. As they guess tell them to write it down on the outside of the bag. Then later they can dump the bag and see how many they got right.

For safety reasons on my youngest kids that couldnt really talk yet, i would take a permanent marker and write my cell phone number on the bottom of their shoe along with their name and mine. It made it out of sight so no stranger would see their name, but in case of a child getting seperated it gave something for the child or adult to go by to get in touch with me. And when the trip was over i would remove the info easily with alcohol , if it hadnt already been worn off. Its best to always, always be prepared.

On our last trip to the beach there was no one else on the island that day, yet, so kids pretended we were "Survivors". What they didnt realize was they were cleaning the beach of debris as they were gathering their 'treasures'. Driftwood became a fake fire up by the tree line, old washed up boards became benches, an old tshirt became the camp flag, and the best was the old styro cooler we made into a table so we could play tic-tac-toe with seashells!!! When we were done we deposited everything in the trash/recycle bins appropriatly, and the kids didnt even fuss about picking it up because they had already done so in fun earlier , without even realizing it.

When in a different city and we cant decide what to eat, we will all pick a different place that has 'take-out' or 'drive-thrus' and get a meal at every one of these places, then take it back to the motel, rest area with picnics,or a local park and we will all swap and trade. Kids love this!

Colleen G. of New Jersey

My parent's live in Florida and my family is in NJ. My kids and I drive down twice a year, airfare is too high. In order to make the trip bearable here are a few hints to keep your kids happy on the road.
1. Play "Dune Buggy", everytime you see a Volkswagon you shout out Dune Buggy and the color
2. Always have a cooler filled with soft drinks and snacks.
3. Bring along a bag filled with games, books, and toys.
4. Stop and let them RUN around, you'd be surprised how much it makes sitting in the car more bearable for them.
5. If all else fails and they're getting cranky I do something that they least expect from me. I blast the radio and start singing as loud as I can, they join in and we just laugh.
The most important thing in a long car drive is to make it fun, over the years my kids remember the car ride as much as they do the vaction. They laugh at Mommy beeping at the tractors and waving to the truck drivers and getting them to honk their horns. Just be silly!!! Kids are, why can't we be.

Lisa M. of Maryland

While traveling, (in day light hours) have your children see how many different license plates they can find and if they are small let the parent write the names down, it it is night time have the children look for cars with only one headlight and the one to guess the most wins a small prize. thia i did as a child and it helps the time pass faster, enjoy Lisa

Patti D. of Indiana

Everyone in the family, gather things that mean something to them. Either make a shadowbox or a scrapbook of those items- a wonderful memory of that trip!

Lisa D. of Nevada

Shell Necklaces: Start by gathering as many sea shells as you can. Get some fishing line, a Long Nail, a Hammer or rock. Punch holes carefully in the shells and then string them on the fishing line. when it is full tie a knot in it and wear.

Sea Shell pictures: Burlap or bamboo place mats or a piece of wood 8X10, Wood glue or Tacky Glue, Shells. Start by placing your shells in a pleasing or abstract manner. Then pick up each piece and glue it down. You can also add drift wood, Pumice, sand and sea glass. Remember too to write the Beach and the date on the back of your Picture.

If you go to the Forest or else where just adapt it to fit. There are always intresting things to gather all over the world so have fun and enjoy your Holiday!

Thank you to everyone who entered their vacation activity ideas into our contest!

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